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Yale study examines shifts in fertility rates among Generation X women

October 08, 2019

A new, Yale-led study examines shifts in fertility behaviors among Generation X women in the United States -- those born between 1965-1982 -- compared to their Baby Boomer counterparts, and explores whether the fertility of college-educated women is increasing more quickly across cohorts in Generation X than the fertility of their less educated counterparts.

The study, published online in the journal Population Studies, used data from the National Survey of Family Growth to determine educational differentials in fertility levels and timing across four 5-year cohorts. The study shows that total fertility rates (TFRs) increased across all educational groups in Generation X women -- with the greatest increase seen in college-educated women.

Emma Zang, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology who authored the study, found that the increase in the fertility rates for college-educated women is primarily driven by a larger proportion of those with two children who go on to have a third child. This result suggests the emergence of a three-child norm among college-educated women.

These findings also suggest that the increase in TFRs among college-educated women had little to do with changes in fertility timing. "College-educated women tend to postpone their first births, but space higher-order births closer together, whereas those without a college degree, who generally have an earlier first birth, allow more time between pregnancies. However, over time, college-educated women are further postponing a first birth and also slightly increasing the spacing of higher-order births." says Zang.

"This is the first study to use the complete data of the whole generation to systematically demonstrate and analyze the educational differences in fertility levels and timing among U.S. cohorts who were born after 1960, and contributes to the current debate on whether highly-educated Generation X women are less ambitious in balancing family and career, and tend to prioritize child-rearing, compared to their Baby Boomer counterparts," says Zang.
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Yale University

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